Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Giving is Good for You

Christakis and Fowler say social contagion could even help explain the existence of altruism: if we can pass on altruism to distant points in a network, it would help explain why altruistic people aren’t simply constantly taken advantage of by other members of their community. Last year, to test this theory, they conducted a laboratory experiment in which participants played a “cooperation game.” Each participant was asked to share a sum of money with a small group and could choose to be either generous or selfish. Christakis and Fowler found that if someone was on the receiving end of a generous exchange, that person would become more generous to the next set of partners — until the entire larger group was infected, as it were, with altruistic behavior, which meant the altruist would benefit indirectly. Read the entire article here.

Paying it forward works. I used to be terrible at being generous. I think a real turning point for me was being called out by my friend Matt in highschool/ early college. You see I used to keep track of money I owed people when they had done so much as pick up a drink for me or a ticket or whatever. I recall remembering a 1.50 debt for about 6 months that I owed to someone. Sadly the reverse was also true.

It was a terrible way to live. I realize now that then I operated from a mentality of scarcity. I felt that everything I earned I needed to survive. It was all mine and no one could have it!! Instead I’ve tried to switch to one of abundance. Everything I need is right here. Money comes and goes and I am merely a steward of it. I have so many blessings and gifts in my life. My most valued possessions are not the things I own, but the people I’ve met and the experiences I share with them. That’s the essence of joy.

We are all connected by a web of relationships, and thus what we contribute to others we contribute to ourselves. The biggest way we can change the world is to affect the lives of those around us. I encourage you to think about giving either your time and/or money to a cause you believe in this Christmas. There are a lot of great ones. If you don’t have money perhaps you can do something else to draw attention to your message.

Ps. If you want to donate to the Benevolent Beard I will match all of your donations dollar for dollar up to $500.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Grow The Beard!!

I wanted to take a post to highlight the work of one of my best friends. David Horn of The Benevolent Beard is in the process of growing out his beard and hair for charity. If you knew David you would know that this is right up his ally, he’s always done the right thing, but in a way that entertains both him and those around him.

The charity he’s supporting is Invisible Children and Doctors Without Borders, read why he chose these charities here. Each month the price to keep the hair growing will increase by a percentage. David hopes to maintain the project for two years. That's one hell of a beard. Not all of us can contribute a large sum of money, but I’m going to give you a special opportunity. I want the beard to grow for several months so for anyone who donates between now and December 31, I will match that gift amount up to $500 dollar for dollar. Just include the following in a comment to this post:

Your name
Amount You Donated
Which Charity
Confirmation Number

Note, this isn’t retroactive, so if you donated before then donate again! I encourage everyone to make an impact this holiday season either through this charity or another of your choice. We are all blessed.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Understanding in a Veloute

This last weekend I went to a well done cooking class. It was an awesome experience. I learned a lot about the concepts surrounding the creation of food. My problem has always been dancing outside of the recipe and experimenting with new combinations. I never felt that I had any kind of road map. That’s beginning to change.

I made my take on a Veloute sauce for the meal I had tonight and I added some cheap white wine as a flavor enhancer. The sauce apparently tasted good to others, but I was displeased as the cheap wine flavor came through in the sauce. It was sort of tacky.

And as I stirred and stirred and got the sauce to taste I thought about the tie in between cooking and life. (Of course I over analyze, it’s what I do) In cooking regardless of how good of a chef you are; you are limited by what you put into it. If your ingredients suck then your food will suck. To have a great dish you need good ingredients. You also need talent. I’m sure a better chef could have made a much better dish, but even still if he used the white wine the cheap flavor would be there. Life is sort of the same way. We get results based on both effort and talent. Some of us are more talented then others. With practice that talent can develop, but our ingredients or effort will always limit our results. If our effort sucks then the end product will suck.

At my client there have been a lot of changes and thus opportunities. I have the option now of increasing my responsibility dramatically. I want this opportunity, but I need to improve in a big way. I have the talent, but I have to put in the effort. I haven’t at times in the past and my work hasn’t been as good. Even though I have the talent I was limiting my product by not putting forth my best effort. I used bad ingredients and got bad results.

I’m working very hard right now because I know that I can’t achieve excellent results with mediocre effort. I can have the talent, but I need the ingredients to make a great dish. Mediocrity is a waste of everyone’s time.

Friday, December 4, 2009


It's a rare treat when it snows in Houston. For one it NEVER happens here and more importantly you tend to get off of work. They like to say it's for safety reasons, but I secretly think it's because even old men like to stand outside mouth open to catch a few flakes themselves. I'm sitting at home as I type this basking in the awesomeness that is this wintery wonderland.

One of my coworkers is from Missouri and as we sat in our corner conference room staring wide eye at the blizzard he said, "I forgot how crazy snow makes you guys down here." (He doesn't say ya'll what a loser!) It got me thinking about how thankful I was for the snow today because it's different. It's rare and new. If it snowed every winter it wouldn't be half as special.

It reminded me that change is a joy. When we find ourselves in new circumstances it's an opportunity for something magical to happen. It's something to embrace, appreciate, and love. Next time you wonder if change is the right way to go think about the snow. Sometimes the new and rare brings us the most joy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

World War II- A Thought On Fear

I’ve been slowly watching World War II in HD over the past week. Its World War II told through the diaries of individuals who were there as well as original video. I am surprised that almost all of the video was shot in color. If you haven’t seen it then I highly recommend it.

I’m always fascinated listening to veterans talk about the war. They see things that men shouldn’t see and go through trials that many of us have never and will never experience. I’ve seen it said throughout the years that after World War II and many other post war economies experience a period of rapid growth after war. I thought about this fact as I watched the program and I developed a theory.

After these men almost lose their lives I imagine that their fear of going bankrupt or taking up a particular vocation to please their parents goes out the door. They come home and decide to just follow their dreams. When we stare death in the face we are suddenly faced with the truth that life is short, it’s fragile, and it’s special. These men see their friends and brothers stripped of their dreams and hopes. War is a magnifying glass of that realization.

And what’s amazing is that when you have a country where the citizens collectively pursue their passions, the country as a whole improves. There are many better ways both morally and more efficiently to increase the economy, but still I browsed Wikipedia’s list of companies started in 1946. This list isn’t comprehensive, but if you follow by year more companies were started right after the war ended (late 1945) then before the war (1940) and the number declines in years afterward. Great ideas are out there, but individuals are held back by a fear of failure. These men when faced with the reality of death realized that the fear of failure was far inferior.

I don’t have a great idea yet, but maybe you do. If you have one then I encourage you to pursue it. Take a note from our great grandfathers who pushed this country forward and take action. The great successes of our generation will be marked by those who took a risk and jumped. Our generation is a generation of dreamers and hopefully it won’t take a war for us to take action.